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Last Night: Matisyahu at the Florida Room


Matisyahu and local beatboxer Komakozie going in.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Florida Room

Better Than: Listening to the Klezmatics at a nightclub

The Review: There's something about catching a show at the Florida Room, the laid-back, SoBe speakeasy, that reminds you of a bar from the 40s or 50s. The decor and atmosphere lends itself to a time of yesteryear where intimate performances weren't out of the ordinary, they where the norm.

Last nights show with Hasidic reggae star Matisyahu was right on par with that vibe. From the moment he stepped to the makeshift stage inside of the packed (and I mean wall to wall) venue, you knew you were getting a special set. There was no band, no special effects or lighting, just Matisyahu and his guitarist, Aaron Dugan, sitting down, both with their eyes closed, having a good time.

The last time I interviewed Matis a few months ago, he mentioned that he had just finished recording a bunch of songs for a new album due out this fall and was hoping to tour a bit and try those songs out on new audiences. I suspect that's what this show was all about, and although he did perform some of his more popular songs, a lot of it was just impromptu half-song/half jam stuff. It was all based more on feel than anything. And he didn't seem to care if people got it or not.


From the cheering of the crowd all night long, it showed that most people definitely got it. He played two sets. The first one was really short. About four songs total, and throughout it, he sat still, built up a vibe, kept his eyes closed, and worked out a few spiritual tunes (the best of which was "Jerusalem") with a reggae skank underneath. People were literally stepping on each other and standing on top of tables to get a glimpse of him up close. He beatboxed a lot and showed off his versatility as an artist. With the absence of a band (and a drummer specifically) Matisyahu just kept the beat himself in between verses and continued to combine hip-hop and reggae in a unique style that nobody else even compares to.

He left after four songs to take a break, and DJ Gunars kept the place amped up with old school reggae tracks that had everyone dancing and grinding all over each other. He was respectful of the night though which was cool...there were no hardcore dancehall tracks or any rude songs played either. Just old-school rockers and it seemed to keep everyone on the same page.


DJ Gunars rocks out for Darfur.

By the time Matisyahu came back out for a second set, he was in a totally different mood. He was a lot more amped up and electrified and the chilled out style of playing he and his guitarist were on earlier seemed to be old news. It was said that he ducked away to his hotel room for 15 minutes to pray, and whatever happened up there changed his mood for the better.

He quickly brought up local beatboxer Komakozie to the stage, they found a groove, and just kept exploring one another's style track after track. As far as I could tell, they'd just met in the hallway 5 mins earlier. But they wasted no time finding a rhythm. They went at it beatboxing together for several minutes and then Matisyahu jumped back into his set and he let Komakozie work as a percussive element beside him.


Some people seemed a bit lost during the more exploratory second set which was filled with even less hits and more new tunes. But as if he could sense that, when it was time for the show to close, he said, "Alright one more." And after a final song, it was, "alright, one more" and then again, "alright, I'ma do one more." And it went on like that for at least 20 minutes. It was a great night of music all around. Hats off to the Florida Room for continuously bringing red-hot shows to the beach and to Matisyahu for proving he's a genuine artist that's serious about his craft.

Jonathan Cunningham

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Jonathan Cunningham

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